3 small biz Davids vs. their Goliaths

Sure, the likes of Staples, BET, and Amazon dominate their markets. But as these three businesses show, there is always room for more.

Shoplet vs. Staples
shoplet vs staples

The challenge: Taking on Staples (SPLS, Fortune 500), Office Depot (ODP, Fortune 500), and an army of smaller office-products stores.

What he did: Tony Ellison, 44, knew it seemed crazy to ditch his career at Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500) to jump into the ultracompetitive office-supply market back in 1994. But with online commerce taking off, he couldn't resist and soon plowed his savings into opening Shoplet. "The big boys in the industry were very slow to move online," he says. It turned out to be a smart bet. Ellison's secret? He lured customers with more than 400,000 products -- and plenty of eco-friendly ones. He also made it easier for them to manage their office-supply spending by offering free proprietary electronic-procurement software. Today Shoplet brings in "nine-figure revenues" and employs 63 people in New York. Who needs a Wall Street career?

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated December 03 2012 06:43 AM ET
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